Posts Tagged ‘Apostle Paul’

Hebrews: Jesus is Better!

Jesus Is Better

© 12/6/2016 C. O. Bishop THCF 12/18/2016

Hebrews 1: 1-3

Introduction:

Today we will begin a study through the book of Hebrews. This epistle has endured controversy over the years regarding the identity of the writer. The consensus over the centuries has mostly been that the writer was the Apostle Paul, and most Bibles have that printed as part of the title.

However, unlike every other Pauline Epistle, there is no introductory line stating that Paul is the writer, and greeting the recipients with “Grace be unto you, and Peace…” etc. Some have therefore attributed this epistle to Apollos, or some other writer. I tend to think it is Paul, anyway, because of some internal evidence: comments that seem to uniquely fit Paul’s life. There is no clear proof either way, so I will drop that issue, and leave it for others to haggle over. The book was clearly written before AD 70, as a good deal of it regards the temple in Jerusalem, and its service, and there is no mention made of the temple’s destruction (which happened in AD 70). So, most historians tentatively place it at about AD 64, but we can’t be certain.

The general theme is the idea that “Jesus is Better”. The writer shows the infinite superiority of Christ, over seven key aspects of Judaism. He also issues seven warnings to “dabblers” who seem to be believers, but who evidently are just “along for the ride”, and not actually “entering in” by faith. The warnings grow more and more serious, throughout the book. There are forty exhortations of one sort or another, and a great deal of teaching. It is not an easy book to study because there are passages that can be easily misunderstood, if not carefully compared with the rest of the Bible. We will try to address those problematic passages as they arise.

It is interesting, to me, however, that there is almost no teaching in the book of Hebrews on how to be saved, only multiple warnings and exhortations to not miss out on it. Evidently the writer knew his audience, and knew they were aware that salvation was offered as a gift, and of how it must be received. There is also very little teaching on “what the Church is”, or “how it is to function;” only on who Christ is, compared to the Earthly or Heavenly “star-players” of the Old Testament. So, Jesus is better than:

  1. The Prophets (Hebrews 1:1-3)
  2. The Angels (1:4-14; 2:5-18)
  3. The Prophet and Lawgiver, Moses (3:2-6)
  4. The Sabbath (4:1-16; 5:1-10)
  5. The Priesthood (7:4-28; 8:1-6; 9:11)
  6. The Old Covenant (“He is the mediator of a better covenant.”) (8:6-13; 9:1-28)
  7. The Old Testament Sacrifices (He is a better sacrifice) (9:11-14, 23, 28; 10:1-12)

In every case, Jesus was demonstrated to be far superior to whomever or whatever he was to be compared…hence, the thematic choice, “Jesus is better.

An Abrupt Beginning

The opening lines of the Epistle to the Hebrews actually form one of the problems that make people wonder who the author is: All of Paul’s other epistles begin with a fairly consistent greeting; blessing the recipients and identifying the writer.

The Epistle to the Hebrews dispenses with formalities, so to speak; it makes no “introduction” as to the writer or the recipients, nor even to the theme, but simply slams right into the theme itself. It is interesting to me that the Old Testament Hebrew writings sometimes do the same thing. (Genesis 1:1, for example.) Possibly the reason this book is so different in style is specifically because it is the only epistle Paul wrote for a non-Gentile audience. In Romans 11:13 Paul cheerfully identifies himself as “the apostle to the Gentiles”. So, all of his writings to the Gentiles followed Gentile formats. We have another example by an unbelieving Roman centurion, (Acts 23:35, ff,) and it follows a similar form. So, I am comfortable with the differences between this epistle and the others written by Paul. Most, if not all, of the differences can be attributed to the difference in the intended recipients.

By verse two we can see that a comparison is being made between the Old Testament Prophets and Jesus, with Jesus being shown to be so far superior that no further comment is made. No argument is offered: He is simply shown to be God, while the prophets were simply the mouthpieces or spokesmen for God. In the same short chapter, the angelic hosts are shown to be a servant-class creation, while Jesus is shown to be their Creator and Master; but we will pursue that subject at a later date.

Though the majority of the epistle is written to genuine believers, there are seven warnings to professing believers (sometimes intermingled with exhortations to believers), scattered throughout the whole book:

  1. Don’t neglect the salvation that is being offered. (2:1-4)
  2. Don’t harden your heart. (3:7-4:1)
  3. Don’t fail, through unbelief, to enter in. (4:1)
  4. Don’t fall away, despising the sacrifice of Christ (6:1-9)
  5. Don’t attempt to fall back on the sacrifices…they no longer work. (10:26-31; 35-39)
  6. Don’t opt out for temporal gain. (12:16)
  7. Don’t refuse to hear (respond to) Him. (12:25-29)

There are also about 40 exhortations to believers, which we will address as they arise.

I will be quoting from the KJV. You are welcome to read along in any translation you like.

Hebrews Chapter One: God Speaks to Man

The writer begins with the “Author of all things”—God. Both Genesis and John begin with the same individual. I think it is an effective approach, especially in dealing with an audience of professing Hebrew believers, to begin with the central person of all Eternity: God.

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
In various ways and at various times, God has approached Man. We cannot approach Him unless He first reaches out to us. Think about it: He is invisible, so that we don’t know where to look; and He’s absolutely Holy, so as to be completely separate from the fallen race of Man. We can only see the effects of His power, and marvel from a distance at His obvious wisdom and splendor. We have no real way to approach God: God had to approach Man.

Even in the Garden of Eden, God called to Adam, “Where art thou?not the other way around. All through the Old Testament, God reached out to Mankind, meeting us where we lived. And it has continued so today. God says in Psalm 14, and reiterates in Romans 3, that “…there is no one who seeks after God.” We have a hard time with that idea: we insist, “Oh, yes we do!” But the fact is that we only seek after that “missing something”, in each of our lives; perhaps motivated by a longing for meaning and direction and Peace; but, most certainly not seeking the Creator and Judge of all the Universe. We fear Him; we flee from Him, and we reject him at every turn, until He comes and confronts us. (E.g. John 1:11, 12; Acts 9:1-6)

God had sent prophets, many times, throughout the centuries, but they were usually rejected, and were frequently murdered. So, God himself changed the game. After thousands of years of sending prophets, judges, and deliverers at various levels; speaking unto the Fathers (the patriarchs) by the prophets, He finally sent “God in the Flesh:” God the Son. He spoke to the prophets in a variety of ways: out of the air, from a burning bush, from the glory in the tabernacle, and from a towering column of thundering smoke at Mount Sinai… but the prophets were sent to speak to the patriarchs. Who did He send to us? Jesus!

Jesus is Better Than the Prophets

He says that, “in these last days”, he has spoken to us by His Son. But not just any son… the only begotten Son—the heir, “whom He hath appointed heir of all things”. And, lest we forget just who that Son really is (not just a Jewish Carpenter), he reminds us that it is Jesus who carried out the creation of the universe. (Greek “aeonas”—the ages…this is not the Greek word “kosmos”, which can mean a world or a world system. But we see in Genesis that the “time-pieces” (Sun, moon, and stars) were created after the creation of the earth that we inhabit. So, if Jesus is the creator of the ages…all time as well as the whole earth, as we will see, then he is truly the Creator of the universe.) Also; though we see things from the perspective of those locked in time and space, God sees from Eternity, the eternal “Now,” and He decreed before the foundation of the Earth that the Only Begotten Son was to be the means of our salvation. Jesus is “Plan A”—and there is no “Plan B.” (Ephesians 1:4; 3:8-11; 1st Peter 1:20)

He goes on to describe the person and work of Jesus Christ in astonishing ways, so that any reader can see the unquestionable superiority of the Son, but in ways that are especially tailored for Jewish readers:

Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:

What Does He Say?

  • He says that Jesus is the brightness of the Glory of God. (Think about the tabernacle! Remember how the Glory of God shone out from the Tabernacle so brightly that no one could go in? That was Jesus, personally showing up to bless the new structure, though it was just a tent at that point! Later, in the great Temple of Solomon, the same thing happened: The “Shekinah” Glory shone out. Jesus is the Brightness of God’s Glory!)
  • He says that Jesus is the exact manifestation of the Father. (Compare John 14:8-11) We have a hard time with this, because it exceeds our imagination, but the Jews had an even harder time, as they denied that it was possible for a man to be God, or for God to become a man. And yet, had they thought it over, they would have realized that God had many times appeared in the form of a man in their history. He had eaten with them, fought for them, and wrestled with one of the patriarchs! If they read Zechariah 12:1-10, they should have even seen that the one that was pierced was Jesus…and Jehovah!
  • He says that the Word of Jesus is what is “upholding all things”…maintaining the Universe… (Compare Colossians 1:15-17: “holding everything together”.)
  • The Greek word for “Power”, here, is “dunamis”, not the word for authority—“exousia”. This refers to the sheer magnitude of His ability. And yet, he does it by His Word.
  • He says that Jesus himself purged the sins of the human race…he alone did it. There is no other work to be done. The sinner can add nothing to the completed work of Jesus at the Cross. His blood stands for eternity as the full payment for the sins of the Human race. His work is finished!
  • He further says that when Jesus had accomplished that task, he sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high. (Note—in the tabernacle, or the temple (our only glimpses into the “arrangement” of the throne room of God) the Ark of the Covenant was the only piece of furniture in the inner sanctum, the Holy of Holies. If Jesus completed his High-priestly duties, where could he sit? Especially, how could he sit down “at the right hand of God?” The answer is that he is God, and has the right to sit between the cherubim, on the Mercy Seat, in the place of God. Consider John 5:22) Further, the Old Testament high priests could never sit down. Their work could never be completed, even had there been a place to sit.

To me, these are mind-boggling premises. And the writer did not ease up on the ideas, or even try to “build a case,” culminating in the explanation of these facts. He simply, bluntly stated them, and allowed the Jewish readers to draw their own conclusions. The Jewish believers, then and now, were pretty awed by the prophets…and rightfully so. But the writer of the book of Hebrews immediately points out that Jesus surpasses the Prophets in every way.

Conclusion

If we haven’t already caught on to the identity of Jesus Christ, we need to open our eyes and see it! Paul spoke to a mixed audience: not all of them really knew the enormity of who Jesus is/was. Some still had the idea that he was just the most recent in a long line of Jewish Prophets. Some may have thought that he was some sort of exalted spiritual being, along the lines of an angel. The writer gives no room for such thoughts.

Who do you say that he is? Jesus asked that question of the disciples, and Peter responded, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” That turned out to be a great answer.

But there are those who are uncomfortable with it. John 1:1-14 reveals that Jesus is God in the Flesh, and Hebrews 1:1-14 reveals the same truth in more stark terms. We cannot relegate Jesus to a lesser status than who he really is. He has to be one of the following:

  1. The Almighty God, the Creator, who became a Man, so that He could die in our place,
  2. A lesser god of some sort, or
  3. Not a god at all.

Some people diminish Jesus to the state of a demi-god…a great spiritual being of some sort. This means he was not truly Man (which would disqualify Him as Savior) nor was He truly God (which would also disqualify Him as Savior.) So the religions and philosophies that deny His deity also have to deny him as Savior. (By the way, one of these groups, which lifts its name from Isaiah 43:10, where it says “I am Jehovah and you are my witnesses” in their Bible, ignore the next few verses, which say that there has never been another God before or after Him, and that apart from Him there is no savior!

Others go further and declare him to be only a man, possibly a good man, but deluded, at best. Some even go a step further and deny that he ever existed at all, as though he were simply a creature of mythology and wishful thinking…perhaps like Santa Claus. Not only would both of these accusations completely disqualify him as savior, they fly in the face of history.

The secular historians of Jesus’ time knew who he was. They denied his deity, but they surely knew of his existence. And the many thousands who believed on him in the first century were martyred because they knew who and what Jesus was, and because they believed in Him. Theirs was not a faith built on hearsay. They had known him personally, and had personally witnessed the crucifixion and the resurrection. People don’t willingly sacrifice their lives for something they know to be a lie. They knew the truth.

The fact is, we know the truth too! So we need to live as those who know the truth, and who, by that truth, have been set free to serve the Living God. As we study through Hebrews, we can be set free by the sure knowledge of the Person of Christ. It seems especially appropriate to think on these truths, at this season of Christmas, when we commemorate His birth. The following song by Mark Lowry, addresses this question:

Mary, Did you Know?

Mary, did you know that your baby boy would some day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when your kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

Oh Mary did you know

The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak the praises of the lamb?

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great “I AM!”

Personally, I find that concept absolutely beyond comprehension! But that is the Truth! The One whom we have come to know, and trust as our Savior.

Lord Jesus, lift up our eyes to see your face. Help us to see you in your humanity, but just barely cloaking your full deity. It is hard, perhaps impossible, for us to understand your deity, Help us to accept that truth, and see your face in the Scriptures as well as in the Creation.


God’s Authority in the Gospel

The Authority of the Gospel

© C. O. Bishop 10/10/14  THCF 10/12/14


Galatians 1:17-24

Introduction:

We sometimes think of the Gospel as “a get home free” ticket, or a “fire-escape clause”, a “lifeboat”, or simply the “bait” with which God draws people to himself. In a way, there is an element of truth to each of these oversimplifications. But the fact is; all of them miss what is surely one of the main points of the message. The Gospel has the authority of God. This is His chosen (and only) means by which he saves humans. He describes it as his power to save sinners who believe (Romans 1:16), and it is the only thing so described in scripture. Furthermore, it is not something humans would have come up with even if they could have—it is a stumbling-block to virtually everyone, at one level or another, simply because it is so not human-centered. It centers upon the Holiness of God, His Goodness, His Wisdom, and His Love. The Gospel is only “good news” to those willing to realize the “bad news”.

This explains Paul’s reaction to Christ, in a way: once Paul had his assignment, you will notice he didn’t mess around trying to “pray about it” or any other procrastinating trick that we might tend to do. He had already been praying—and blinded by God—when Ananias came in and God restored his sight. So, when the Lord Jesus also revealed his assignment, he “immediately conferred not with flesh and blood”. Paul had seen clearly the “bad news”: he had been warring against God. And he was beginning to learn the “good news”—that God could save him, and wanted to use his life; Paul was in prayer (probably lots of confession) and fasting, when Ananias came to see him. He was still physically blind until God restored his sight. He had a new life; restored with a purpose…he was an Apostle. It was not up to other humans to tell him what God had already told him. It was up to Paul to obey. He understood the authority of the Gospel, and is trying, still today, to convey it to his readers.

 Faith is an Obedient Response to a Revealed Truth

17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.

He had no need to go talk to them…he was doing what he was told to do, and going where he was sent. He believed Jesus was who he said He was, and had received proof in his own life. He had an assignment Ananias was told by Jesus that Paul was to be a chosen vessel for Christ;’ that he would bear the name of Christ before the Gentiles, and kings, as well as to Israel. Jesus said, “I will show him how great things he must suffer for my sake.” (Acts 9:15, 16) So Paul was convinced, and was immediately obedient. You may remember other people in the Bible who responded in similar fashion…Abraham, for example. But Paul goes on to say,

18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.

19 But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.

20 Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.

This is pretty important in Paul’s mind: he wanted his readers to know that, while the message he preached was completely in agreement with that of the eleven, his message was not dependent upon theirs at all: both came straight from the same source; Jesus Christ. Paul had known the Lord for several years before he ever even met the other apostles. And the first time he met any of them it was only for a brief visit with Peter and James.

So when did Jesus teach Paul? During the three year interval before he saw Peter, evidently. Some time in Arabia, and some time in Damascus. Remember, Damascus was where he was headed when Jesus stopped him (Acts 9), and he had been going there specifically to arrest the Jewish believers living there. (I wonder what their first response was when he showed up as a believer. Probably the news had gotten around, as it was Ananias, a believer from Damascus, who was sent to restore his sight.)

He apparently had a brief time in Arabia, and then went back and spent time preaching in Damascus, and fellowshipping with the Jewish believers there, until the unbelieving Jews tried to kill him, and the believers had to smuggle him out of town. It seems that that was when he first went back to Jerusalem. The believers there were afraid of him, because they had not yet heard of his conversion. Barnabas took him to the apostles but evidently the only two apostles available on that particular trip were Peter and James, (cp. Acts 9:27), and he was introduced to them by Barnabas. Barnabas later became Paul’s partner in the preaching of the Gospel, and was also called an apostle, by Luke, in Acts 14:14.

I don’t really know why anyone would doubt the truth of what Paul shared here, regarding his behavior after having met Jesus. It seems it was common knowledge, by that time. Perhaps he was simply reiterating the fact that his message was not a “spin-off” from that of the eleven, but had been received directly from the risen Jesus Christ. All he can offer to doubters is to call God as his witness, to show that he is not lying. The doubters were not there, when any of these things happened, and he was there. It is an eyewitness account. The Apostles who received him at Jerusalem were still alive and could confirm it, if anyone wanted to ask. Undoubtedly Ananias, of Damascus was still available, too. But God had already borne out the truth of Paul’s testimony in his own life, and in the works of an Apostle that he had done among them there in the province of Galatia. They should have known all this, but Paul brings it all into focus again, in an attempt to present the Gospel he preached as being fully authoritative.

The Authority of the Gospel

The authority of the Gospel is an important point: Either this is just Paul’s opinion, in which case we can take it or leave it; or it really is the Word of God, and we have to take it as having the full backing of God. Peter confirms later that Paul’s writings were scripture. (2nd Peter 3:15, 16) So, while you can still “take it or leave it”, you need to be aware that it is God you are responding to, not just a human author.

Paul continues to share how his life in Christ had begun: he says,

21 Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia;

22 And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:

23 But they had heard only, that he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.

24 And they glorified God in me.

Paul’s point, continuing through these verses, and beyond, is that his message and his ministry came directly from the risen Christ, not from those who were apostles before him, nor from the organized church, or a body of elders, or any other human source. He didn’t go off to Seminary, or seek Holy Orders, or the blessing of a cardinal or pope. He didn’t even go to the County Seat and get a ministerial license. He simply went right to work.

He never even met the churches in Judea, or the remaining apostles until years later. They’d heard of him, all right, by that time; they heard that the one who had been devastating the church was now building it and edifying it: he was strengthening the believers; and the churches in Judea were excited to hear it. They knew it could only have happened by the power and grace of God; by a supernatural intervention, not by human wisdom or force of argument. This is a pretty important idea…we do not need to concern ourselves with human wisdom, forceful arguments, etc. as they virtually never bring people to Christ. We need to seek supernatural intervention. We do so by prayer …and the preaching of the Gospel.

Proof of the Gospel

By the way, the change in Paul’s life is further proof to us, as well, of the Divine source of the Gospel: it transforms lives. Not just by “invigorating” people who were already of a “religious” bent or that were the “goody-two-shoes” sort; but rather by turning around those who were violently opposed to the message. It perhaps could be argued that Paul was both, as he was deeply involved and committed to the religion of the Jews— Judaism— and was a righteous man by Jewish standards. But he was violently opposed (literally) to the message of Salvation through Jesus Christ, and was in the business of tracking down Jewish believers, arresting them, and hauling them back to Jerusalem to face trial. He was a bounty-hunter, if you will—armed with documents giving him authority for search and seizure, and he was headed for Damascus when Jesus intervened personally. He was a one-man Inquisition. But God stopped him and turned him around. He was transformed by the Holy Spirit.

God is still transforming lives today. In my own case, I was an atheist, and dogmatically so. God gave me the opportunity to watch the lives of new believers changing around me, my last year in High school. I had known several of them before they were believers, and I saw the undeniable change in their lives, after salvation. It brought me to the conviction that there was something real going on, and made me receptive to re-thinking my own condition. I eventually saw that I myself was a lost sinner. I tried to change on my own, and found it was beyond my ability to produce consistent change. (I still find it so, as a matter of fact.) Eventually I threw myself on the mercy of God as a helpless, hopeless sinner, which is exactly what He calls us to do.

We don’t like those three words, though: “helpless”, “hopeless” and “sinner.” “Guilty” is another word we avoid today. But all are facts, and unless you recognize them in your own life you will not find a place for the Gospel in your heart. Jesus only offers to save helpless, hopeless, guilty sinners. Not those who feel guilty: guilt is a fact, not a feeling. I usually experience guilt feelings when I am guilty, however, there is such a thing as false guilt, which is feeling guilty about something that is truly not your fault. You can bring that on yourself through wrong thinking, or someone else can load it on you, through casting blame. It is very destructive, because there is no real release except a change in thinking, which is difficult to achieve. Real guilt can be dealt with at the cross, through confession.

The result of Paul’s salvation was that other believers glorified God in him. In fact, one result of the salvation of any sinner is that other believers glorify God in them—we recognize the hand of God in the salvation of any soul, and we give thanks and Glory back to Him. That is called Worship, and God surely deserves it at every level.

The Wisdom of the Gospel is of God, Not of the World

Over in 1st Corinthians 1:17-25, (read it) Paul is addressing a different group of believers, with the same sort of message: the centrality and authority of the Gospel. He had already run into those who counted themselves too smart for the Gospel, or too good for it. In Athens (Acts 17) he had preached a sermon geared to popular appeal, which is still, today, touted as one of the great examples of fine preaching, and it is frequently used as a “textbook case” in homiletics classes in Bible schools and seminaries. But the actual results of that sermon (results are a good thing, right?) were very lackluster…and, the very next place he went (Corinth), Paul had determined to do things differently.

Paul stated that “Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel…” (The context, here, was that the people were already beginning to form schisms in the church based on who their mentors had been: who led them to Christ, who baptized them, etc. “Denominations”, if you will, were beginning right then, and Paul was trying to put a stop to it. He said that the Gospel was the key issue.)

He said he was supposed to preach the Gospel “…not with wisdom of words, lest the Cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” (It is evidently possible to render the Cross powerless, if we drape it in too much human “razzle-dazzle”. We can either use light to reveal truth, or we can use it in such a way that all it breeds is confusion. Consider what light does in the mirrors of a mirrored maze.)

Paul went on to state that the lost world pretty much uniformly sees the preaching of the Cross as foolishness. They are “…too smart for that tripe!” Or, in the case of those deeply entrenched in religions, they may see themselves as “too good” for it. They don’t need a savior—they aren’t sinners! Funny, while Jesus did die for the sins of the whole world…because all of us are sinners… he clearly stated that he did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. People who don’t see themselves as lost have no felt need for a savior. So they reject the message out of hand…and all the more angrily, as they feel you are suggesting that they are sinners. (Well… yeah, as a matter of fact…!)

But then he points out that God’s wisdom sees that the World’s wisdom will not bring people to Christ…ever. (“After that, in the wisdom of God, the World by wisdom knew not God…. So, he says, “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

In contrast, God says he will destroy the “wisdom” of the “wise”—that is, the “worldly wise”, because that sort of wisdom always seeks an avenue by which it can deny God, or at least deny the person of Christ.

In Romans 1:21, 22, Paul says, “…because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools…”

Is it possible for a human to be wise? Sure, provided the wisdom comes from God! Human wisdom inevitably leads a person to pride, and the conclusion that he or she does not need God. And even among believers, Human wisdom only leads to contention and self-centeredness. James says that human wisdom that is not from God is “…earthly, sensuous, and devilish”. Those sorts of things do not lead a person to Christ. Human wisdom that comes from God is “…first pure, then peaceable, and easy to be entreated…” That is a whole different outlook.

Conclusion:

We can take Paul as our example: We can choose to have his priorities, and mimic his response to God. In fact, Paul suggests that we do just that: He says “be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1st Corinthians 11:1)

So, as we continue to read through the Epistle to the Churches of the Galatian province, be on the lookout to see things from Paul’s example that you can emulate to one degree or another. Remember; if you are a believer, then the letter is to you, too.

As you read, remember the Divine authority of the Gospel…God is not begging, trying to get you to change your own life—it can’t be done. He is gently commanding you to allow Him to transform you, as he did Paul, and as He has transformed every believer in history, when they stopped rebelling and allowed Him to do His work.

The way He intends to do it is through the written Word and the indwelling Holy Spirit. You can’t hope to have God change your life if you ignore His Word. You can’t hope to have Him change you if you ignore the Holy Spirit, either—and the two always work together. The Spirit will never lead you where the Written Word does not also (implicitly or explicitly) direct you.

It takes effort…you can’t just wait around hoping that God will jump on you and change your heart. If you think it seems hard, remember all the things Paul endured.

Paul told the Church at Philippi, “Unto you it has been given, in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe in His name but also to suffer for his sake!

Guess what? That letter is to us, as well.