Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Purpose of the Law

Today we pick up our study in Galatians 3:19 which says, “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” So, the question now is, “If the Law did not set aside or even add to the promise that God made to Abraham what was the purpose of giving it at all?” It was added because of transgressions. Sin! Romans 4:15 says, “Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.” Also, Romans 5:20 says, “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:” So, the Law was to point out our falleness until the Messiah would come and offer a way to fix it. Romans 10:4 says, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”

An evangelist by the name of Fred Brown used three images to describe the purpose of the law. First he likened it to a dentist's little mirror, which he sticks into the patient's mouth. With the mirror he can detect any cavities. But he doesn't drill with it or use it to pull teeth. It can show him the decayed area or other abnormality, but it can't provide the solution.

Brown then drew another analogy. He said that the law is also like a flashlight. If suddenly at night the lights go out, you use it to guide you down the darkened basement stairs to the electrical box. When you point it toward the fuses, it helps you see the one that is burned out. But after you've removed the bad fuse and inserted a new one, you turn off the flashlight as that it is no longer needed.

In his third image, Brown likened the law to a plumb line. When a builder wants to check his work, he uses a weighted string to see if it's true to the vertical. But if he finds that he has made a mistake, he doesn't use the plumb line to correct it. He gets out his hammer and saw. The law points out the problem of sin; it doesn't provide a solution. Of course, the mediator spoke of in this verse is referring to Moses.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Blessing of Abraham

Today we pick up our study in Galatians 3:10-12 which says, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.” You either live under the Law or you don’t. I’m humored by those who in their desire to keep one aspect of the Law for salvation completely ignore the rest. Paul is saying here that it is all or nothing.

Notice vv.13-14, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” The blessing of Abraham was that through him all of the nations of the earth would be blessed. We see this promise in Genesis 12:1-3 when God said to Abraham, “…I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”

First, the Messiah, our Savior, Jesus Christ was a Jew. Second, the world has been blessed even more by the Jews in that most of the breakthroughs in modern science and medicine have been because of the Jew. If you don’t believe that, go and search the web for how many Jews have won the Nobel Prize! It’s a whooping 176 recipients! They represent 23% of the total recipients since 1902 and yet they represent less than 1% of the earth’s total population. That’s phenomenal by any count.

I believe that one of the reasons God has blessed the United States of America is because of the way we have treated the Jew. While Europe, for the most part, turned their backs on the Jews when they needed them most, America did not.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Salvation by Faith

Today we pick up our study in Galatians 3:6, “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now Paul compares our faith and salvation to that of Abraham. In Romans 4:9-11, the Apostle Paul tells us that Abraham’s salvation came as a result of faith and not works when he said, “…for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.”

In other words, Abraham’s circumcision took place many years after he was actually accounted righteous by God; thus works were not involved in his righteousness. We find these accounts in Genesis 15:1-6 where it was declared by God that Abraham’s faith in the promises that God had given to him had made him righteous and in Genesis 17:9-10 when the ordinance of circumcision was actually given. What we see here is that salvation by faith is not new to the New Testament. Prior to the Law, Abraham was saved by his faith as well.

Notice v.7, “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” Have you ever heard the song, “Father Abraham had many sons and I am one them and so are you. So let’s just praise the Lord.” Just as Abraham was saved by faith, so are we; thus we are the children of Abraham.

Notice v.8, “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” The concept of God blessing, much less offering salvation to the Gentiles was not even an option to the Jew of Paul’s day. Yet, the Scripture says that God had a plan of salvation for the Gentiles in view even at the time of Abraham! That’s great news for us Gentiles! Jesus said in John 10:16 “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”

Noticev.9, “So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.” Just as God blessed Abraham because of his faith, so he will bless us as well if we have faith. Want to be blessed? – Have faith!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Editorial Backlash

A few weeks ago as I was working my way through the book of Galatians in my weekly column with the Brownsville Herald, I discussed the issue of the "Perpetual Virginity of Mary." That is the Catholic doctrine that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus. Wow, what a backlash I received from some in the community. The amazing thing is that none of them argue from the point of Scripture but chruch tradition. Jesus had much to say about placing the traditions of men over the clear teachings of the scripture.

So, is the perpetual virginity of Mary Biblical? It is the official position of the Roman Catholic Church that Jesus' mother Mary remained a virgin for her entire life. Is this concept Biblical? Before we get into looking at specific Scriptures, it is important to understand why the Roman Catholic Church believes in the perpetual virginity of Mary. The Roman Catholic Church views Mary as "the Mother of God" and "Queen of Heaven." Catholics believe Mary to have an exalted place in Heaven, with the closest access to Jesus and God the Father. Such a concept is nowhere taught in Scripture. Further, even if Mary did occupy such an exalted position, her having sexual intercourse would not have prevented her from gaining such a position. Sex in marriage is not sinful. Mary would have in no way defiled herself by having sexual relations with Joseph her husband. The entire concept of the perpetual virginity of Mary is based on an unbiblical teaching, Mary as Queen of Heaven, and on an unbiblical understanding of sex.

So, what does the Bible say about the perpetual virginity of Mary? Using the New American Bible, which is a Catholic translation of the Bible, we can see that the perpetual virginity of Mary is not taught in the Bible. Matthew 1:25 in the NAB tells us, "He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus." He, Joseph, did not have sexual relations with her, Mary, UNTIL after she bore a son, Jesus." The meaning of this Scripture is abundantly clear. Joseph and Mary did not have sexual relations until after Jesus was born. Matthew 13:55-56 NAB declares, "Is He not the carpenter's son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Are not His sisters all with us?" Catholics claim, correctly, that the Greek terms from "brothers" and "sisters" in these verses could also refer to male and female relatives, not necessarily literal brothers and sisters. However, the intended meaning is clear, they thought Jesus to be Joseph's son, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas, and the brother of the unnamed and unnumbered sisters. Father, mother, brother, sister. It is straining the meaning of the text to interpret brothers and sisters as "cousins" or "relatives" with the mentioning of Jesus' mother and father.

Matthew 12:46 in the NAB tells us, "While He was still speaking to the crowds, His mother and His brothers appeared outside, wishing to speak with Him." See also Mark 3:31-34; Luke 8:19-21; John 2:12; and Acts 1:14. All mention Jesus' mother with His brothers. If they were His cousins, or the sons of Joseph from a previous marriage, why were they mentioned with Mary so often? The perpetual virginity of Mary cannot be drawn from Scripture. It must be forced on Scripture, in contradiction to what the Scriptures clearly state.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Foolish Galatians

Today, we begin our study in Galatians 3:1, “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” He calls them foolish because they gave in to the teaching of the false teachers. If what they believe that salvation comes by works, then the crucifixion was not necessary. Jesus said in Matthew 26:39 that “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” In other words, Jesus said, “If there is another way of salvation, don’t make me do this.” Of course, there is no other way of salvation and he was promptly arrested, tried and crucified.

Notice vv.2-3, “This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” He asks how they were saved initially; by faith or the Law? The answer is obviously by faith. Unfortunately, this heretical teaching still has strong roots in many churches today as well. The logical conclusion must be that if the flesh couldn’t save you, then how is it able to perfect you?”

Notice 4, “Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.” Now, he is forced to doubt their salvation. Also, in 4:11 he said, “I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.”

Notice v.5, “He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” The miracles and goodness of God; do they come from faithful keeping of the Law of Moses or by faith through the Spirit? By faith through the Spirit, of course! The Spirit was given to each of us when we heard and believed. Acts 10:44 says, “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.” So too, with each of us. Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” God our Father has made all things depend on faith so that whoever has faith will have everything, and whoever does not have faith will have nothing.