Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Galatians: Sermon 2

Paul Hontz summarized last week’s message as “Don’t mess with the message." This week the attention turns to “Don’t mess with the messenger.”
Paul’s curriculum vitae is an impressive list of accomplishments and honors; but it counted for nothing after Paul met Jesus.
Galatians 1:13-14 “For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and [tried to] destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.”
Galatians 1:15-17 “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called [me] through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those [who were] apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.”
Dennis: It’s tempting to tie this reference to Arabia to Galatians 4:25: “for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia... “ as if to say Paul got his revelation at Mount Sinai. But Lancaster reminds us that Damascus was part of the Nabatean kingdom and Paul more than likely stayed in the Damascus region until he was forced out by a plot against his life. Acts 9:23-25 “Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him. But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night and let [him] down through the wall in a large basket.”
Hontz: Paul was sent to the seminary of the desert (echoes of Ray VanderLaan here) in Arabia. Hontz commented that Paul learned his message directly from God. After all, would man make this stuff up? “The human condition of man is wicked.” “There is only One way to God, and He exists in three persons.” “Hell is a real place where wicked men go if they don’t accept God’s salvation...” Would humans make this stuff up? No! 
Hontz: Paul’s defense of his Apostleship is to appeal to his personal history and liberation from sin. Paul contrasts his life before and after his miraculous conversion as the supernatural act that caused a 180 degree turn around in his life. He summarizes this in Acts 26:13-18 "... along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? [It is] hard for you to kick against the goads.' "So I said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And He said, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 'But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. 'I will deliver you from the [Jewish] people, as well as [from] the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, 'to open their eyes, [in order] to turn [them] from darkness to light, and [from] the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.'
Paul (as well as us) was saved for good works: Ephesian 2:10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Hontz then elaborated on Paul’s reference to the “Traditions of the Fathers.” After his encounter with Jesus, Paul saw little use for them.”
Dennis: “Traditions of the Fathers” is a common reference to the Oral Torah, later codified into the Mishna and Gemara (Talmud). The oral Torah is not scripture; the Mishna is a commentary on the Torah (and the Gemara is a commentary on the Mishna). Jesus was not against the Oral Torah if it enhanced one’s observance of the commandments; but when it contradicted or got in the way of living out the commandments, then He did not hesitate to point out the problem. 
Hontz: The Judaizers were adding the Law and the traditions to the salvation equation. The Gentiles only needed Jesus.
Dennis: Absolutely, these things have nothing to do with salvation. But when the euphoria over salvation turns to the question, “How should we then live?”, as Francis Schaeffer posed it in his book title, God’s commandments are the source for the wisdom we need. Jesus is the personification of the Living Torah and the Wisdom inherent in it. But, for Gentiles who have recently come out of paganism, the scriptures (which at that time were mainly the Old Testament and a few circulating letters) needed to be presented in bite-sized pieces. This is essentially what many of the letters in the New Testament are: summaries of the ethics and wisdom found in the Torah and the prophets that supplement  the Word as it was preached and read in the Messianic synagogues/assemblies. Galatians 5:13-14 “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not [use] liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, [even] in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Hontz: Paul was transformed and that’s what it’s all about. Acts 9:27-29 “But Barnabas took him and brought [him] to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus...”
Galatians 1:23-24 “But they were hearing only, "He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once [tried to] destroy. And they glorified God in me.”
The author Lee Stroebel was an atheist who was angry and bitter before he met the Lord. After God turned his life around, his 5 year old daughter said to her mom, “I want to be like Daddy because he has changed so much (for the better)”
Paul in chapter 1 is essentially saying “Here’s who I was; here’s Jesus, and here’s who I am now (because of Jesus).”

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