Category Archives: Bible Study

Summary of the Argument of Galatians

I’ve had the privilege of teaching the book of Galatians twice this year and feel like I was just finally getting a handle on this wonderful book. So I decided to continue working on summarizing the book. And to capture the book I developed 3 different summaries.

1. Content overview/review 
Helpful if you are trying to connect the different sections of Galatians to Paul’s overall point.
2. Summary of the argument of the book in light of the problem Paul is addressing
Helpful if you are trying to connect the different sections of Galatians to Paul’s overall point.
3. The role of the gospel in the book of Galatians
Helpful to remind us of the gospel.

Galatians 1–2         the opponents sought to discredit Paul’s authority and message by implying or teaching that Paul’s apostleship was not valid

Therefore,

  • Paul defends himself against the accusation that what he taught was done to please people (1:10).
  • Paul declares his independence from the apostles (1:16-17) as one who received his message, just as they did, directly from Jesus (1:1, 11-12). And showing that he had limited contact with the apostles (1:18-24).
  • Paul demonstrates that his message was affirmed by the apostles (2:6, 7-10), including the rejection of the pressure of the Judaizers in Jerusalem to require circumcision for Titus, a Gentile convert (2:3).
  • Paul displays (validates) that he was not a man pleaser and had authority by challenging Peter who was hypocritically bending to the same issues the false teachers in Galatia were proposing (2:11-14).

Galatians 3–4         the opponents’ message and use of the Old Testament to support their false teaching is challenged by Paul though series of Old Testament expositions

  • Appealing to Abraham as the key example of justification by grace through faith apart from works of the law (3:6, 7-9).

The false teachers may have used the “curse” of Genesis 12:3 as a threat to Gentiles—Paul used the “blessing” of Genesis 12:3 as the rebuttal, supported by Genesis 15:6.

Paul shows that any, Jew or Gentile, who respond to God in faith, as Abraham did, enter into the promises given to Abraham (3:9).

  • Demonstrating that the Mosaic Covenant was inferior (and temporary) to the promise and covenant God made to Abraham (3:16-18).

The false teachers may have placed the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenant on par with each other and missing the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic Covenant and the conditional nature of the Mosaic Covenant.

Paul particularly points out that the promise was primarily about a singular offspring, the future Messiah (3:16).

  • Reminding them of two reasons the Law was given
    • Because of transgression (3:19)—to increase at minimum the realization of sin if not more so to increase the realization of their own need because of sin
    • Because of the Law’s roles as a guardian (3:24)—to be a disciplinarian until Christ came
  • Freedom from enslavement was provided in God’s timing through His Son who was born under the Old Covenant in order to remove the barrier of the Law which allowed both Jews and Gentiles to be adopted into God’s family (4:4-7).
    • So why would the Galatians desire to be enslaved again to the law? (4:9)
    • The false teacher sought to enslave the Galatians, not for the Galatians’ good, but to keep the Galatians in obligation to them.
    • Paul, on the other hand, wants them to have Christ formed in them (4:19).
  • Paul’s final Old Testament support is not expositional but illustrative (4:23-31) seeking to demonstrate through analogy that the Galatians were already free.

Galatians 5–6         the opponents’ message requiring circumcision is rejected and shown to invalidate justification by faith

  • Paul challenges the Galatians to stand firm in freedom not being forced back to the yoke of slavery—because adding to the gospel invalidates the gospel (5:1-6)
    • Freedom is lived out through the Spirit by faith in Christ Jesus resulting in certain anticipation of righteousness (5:6-7), and this faith is worked out through love.
  • Paul goes on to show the implications of the Gospel—as he had when personally present with the Galatians (5:21)—is Spirit produced (5:16, 18, 22, 25) godliness and unity (Negatively: 5:15, 20b-21a, 26; Positively: 5:13-14, 22)

Paul concludes his letter showing that the only way to overcome the works of the flesh is through the Spirit, whom they received by faith, not works of the law (3:1-6).

    • Contrasting the evidence of works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit (5:16-26).
    • Providing practical instructions to assist in the restoration of unity (6:1-5).
    • Challenging them to take seriously what they are facing (6:7-10) and understand the real motivation of the opponents (6:12-15).

Summary of Galatians

I’ve had the privilege of teaching the book of Galatians twice this year and feel like I was just finally getting a handle on this wonderful book. So I decided to continue working on summarizing the book. And to capture the book I developed 3 different summaries.

1. Content overview/review 
Helpful if you are trying to connect the different sections of Galatians to Paul’s overall point.
2. Summary of the argument of the book in light of the problem Paul is addressing
Helpful if you are trying to connect the different sections of Galatians to Paul’s overall point.
3. The role of the gospel in the book of Galatians
Helpful to remind us of the gospel.

Preview / Review

Justification by faith

Galatians 1-2 Personal defense

Defend—authenticity of the message

1:1-5 Paul introduces his God-given authority and his message—forgiveness of sins and deliverance from evil age.

1:6-10 Paul introduces the problem and warns the Galatians of the seriousness of their current situation (deserting and distorting the gospel, the grace of Christ)—anyone who proclaims (for the purpose of convincing others toward) a contrary gospel, is accursed.

1:11–2:10 Paul seeks to establish the credentials for himself and his message—reaffirming that his message was from God, not men.

Paul proves it by showing that he did not receive it from other Apostles, though they affirmed his message. And proving it by not requiring a Gentile co-worker to be baptized, which was also affirmed by the Apostles.

2:11-21

2:11-14 Paul provides additional proof (demonstrates that his authority and message come from God independent of men) by recounting his correction of Peter, who gave in to the pressure (in one specific situation) to make the gospel and Christianity too closely associated with Judaism (Jewish traditions and law-keeping).

2:15-21 Paul begins to answer the question of the relationship between Gentiles and practices of the Law by focusing on the core of the gospel—being declared righteous (justification) by faith in Christ not by works of the law (that which the Law required).

Galatians 3-4 Theological defense

Declare—the gospel of grace through faith

3:1-9 Paul continues to vindication justification by faith. For the Galatians, having received the Spirit is proof that justification is by faith not the works of the Law. Which indicates that they are benefiting from the blessings of Abraham and therefore are children of Abraham by faith—not by works of the Law.

3:10-29 Paul continues to vindicate justification by faith, by demonstrating that Abraham’s justification was by faith not by the Law. Therefore, works of the Law are not means of establishing or maintaining a relationship with God. And the Abrahamic promises were not invalidated by the Mosaic covenant, which was temporary. This naturally leads to the question of the purpose of the Law, to which Paul provides two answers—to reveal sin and to serve as a guardian until Christ. It is through Christ that anyone (Jew or Gentile) by faith can be sons of God receiving the promised blessing of Abraham.

4:1-11 In God’s perfect timing, He broke into the history of humanity (who were enslaved to the weak and worthless controlling principle of the world) to send His Son in full human form, under the weight of the Old Covenant for the purpose of redeeming those who were under the law, resulting in adopt as sons. The benefits: an intimate relationship with the Father and intimate access as that of the firstborn heir.

Why go back to a lesser status? Nothing more is needed to relate to God. Nothing more to receive, nothing more can be earned by works of the Law. Already fully approved by God as evidence of being included in as part of His family.

4:12-31 Paul returns to delineate his personal relationship with the Galatians—reminding them of their acceptance of him and his message. He questions the motivation of his opponents while passionately declaring his desire for the Galatians to have Christ formed in them. He then uses an extended illustration to show that not all the biological children of Abraham are children of promise. Reinforcing his belief that the Galatians are children of promise.

Freedom in Christ

Galatians 5-6 Practical application

Describe—the outcome of the message

5:1-15 Paul encourages the Galatians to enjoy, preserve and protect their freedom.

5:1-12 Paul pivots to the demonstrate that justification by faith provides freedom so the Galatians should stand firm in that freedom and not allow anyone to force them back under the yoke of slavery which is the Law. They must understand that they cannot pick-and-choose aspects of the Law—if they choose to accept the need for circumcision, they must keep the whole Law. But this would sever them from Christ and the hope of righteousness produced through the Spirit by faith.

5:13-15 But this freedom does not lead to antinomian recklessness, but enables them through love to serve others—thereby, carrying out the ultimate ethical aspect of the Law—to love one’s neighbor, rather than opposite—destructive, antagonistic behavior.

5:16-26 Paul challenges the Galatians to continually depend on the Spirit for the power to obey God, even as they continue to battle the desires of the flesh. Paul provides a list of vices and virtues which provide the evidence of whether one is carrying out the works of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit.

This section helps support the fact that a faith relationship with God, through Christ, is not antinomian. Paul describes the present battle and power source for Christians—the Spirit.

5:25–6:10 Since believers are still in a battle against the flesh which is often evident by an exaggerated self-conception, Paul provides instruction for how walking by the Spirit should be evident within the household of faith. Walking by the Spirit results in personal and community responsibilities—including restoring one who sins and assisting the overburdened. And while this can be wearying, Paul exhorts them to not give up.

6:11-18        Summary

Paul’s concluding section, written in his own handwriting as the mark of authenticity, reviews the key issues addressed throughout the letter and makes it clear that the primary issue the Galatians were facing was pressure to be circumcised as a means for obtaining a proper relationship with God. But what should be their boast is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ for through it the world no longer has influence over them.

Paul’s amazing impossible prayer

(Updated re-post)

Paul normally includes an extensive prayers at the beginning of his letters. These prayers normally include some combination of the concepts: love, faith and hope along with some form of a challenge to growth resulting in effectiveness. As you read through the Pauline epistles you quickly see that these prayers (they often accompanying thanksgiving sections) are not just habit but very thoughtful. What he gives thanks for and what he prays are specific to the situation he is writing to.

One of the anomalies in the pattern of prayer is Ephesians. Not only do most scholars believe that Ephesians was a circular letter, not just intended for the church in Ephesus but the surrounding area. But this letter includes two length prayers.

The second prayer, is what I call Paul’s impossible prayer. And it has challenged (exhorted) the kinds of prayers I raise to God.

Before reading this passage, ask yourself, “If I could list all I prayed for this past week–what would it reveal about what I value most?”

Ephesians 3:14-19

Paul’s prayer, a response to (“for this reason”) what he has told his audience about their salvation, leads to a profound Trinitarian prayer for the strength of the Spirit (Ephesians 3:16), the indwelling of Christ (Ephesians 3:17) and the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).

But it is not just a theological statement, it become a daily challenge when we realize the breath of the prayer.

Big Prayer

Ephesians 3:16-17a that according to the riches of his glory, he may grant you, to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–(ESV)

Paul’s prayer begins with a request that God–according to the riches of His glory… and the strength of His power… This is a big prayer. That the God of all glory, the Creator Sustainer Owner of all, would through His mighty power and unlimited resources strengthen us. How much can He strengthen us?–completely. Is there anything His empowering can’t sustain us through?–no.

But this is not just a statement of a fact about God–He is all-powerful. As wonderful as that truth is, Paul takes this core nature of God and asks God to apply it personally. His prayer is not that God would be all-powerful, He is. His prayer is that the All-powerful will apply that power personally and intimately–in our inner being.

Intimate goal

The big prayer continues,

Ephesians 3:17b-19a that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, (ESV)

Paul wants the strengthening to have a specific focus–to comprehend, to understand, to know the whole vastness (breath, length, height, depth) of Christ’s love. Part of what makes this an impossible prayer is that Paul prays that we would know the whole vastness of Christ’s love which “surpasses knowledge.” He wants us to know something that goes beyond our knowledge and understanding. But is not contrary to knowledge or dismisses knowledge.

Paul’s prayer is that we would have an experiential knowledge, a personal experiential intimate understanding of how much Christ loves us! Not just a realization of the fact of Christ’s love, but to fully personally, intimately appreciate the complete nature of Christ’s self-giving love.

All consuming result

The result of this prayer is that

Ephesians 3:19b that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (ESV)

Again, the impossible prayer, ends with another big request–that we finite creatures be fill with the fullness of the infinite God.

The prayer is that as we are strengthened by the All-power–personally, and as we become intimately acquainted with the comprehensive love of Christ that we might be totally consumed by the infinite God.

WOW!

Impossible or the picture of spiritual maturity?

This passage first challenges me to want a greater connection, understanding and a more intimate relationship with God.

Second, the passage challenges my puny, small, weak, selfish, self-focus, concrete time-bound prayers. Not that we should not prayer for those things, but the vast majority of prayers I pray and I hear prayed are so small compared to Paul’s prayer.

Response

The only possible response? Worship.

Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen

What we ask is an overflow of being consumed by God. To Him be glory.

Realization

1. That we pray to the size of our God and faith.
2. God does not fit the limitations of our expectations.

May we learn to pray in a way that honors the majesty, magnitude and the intimate personal nature of God.

“Give thanks to the Lord for…”

This morning I decided to do a quick search on thanksgiving.  I started with the phrase “give thanks to the Lord for…”

What I discovered was interesting.  I expected phrases like “for he is good” or “he is holy.” But the consistent pattern in the Old Testament is…

“give thanks to the Lord for”

1 Chronicles 16:34 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

1 Chronicles 16:41 With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and expressly named to give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.

2 Chronicles 7:6  The priests stood at their posts; the Levites also, with the instruments for music to the LORD that King David had made for giving thanks to the LORD—for his steadfast love endures forever—whenever David offered praises by their ministry; opposite them the priests sounded trumpets, and all Israel stood.

2 Chronicles 20:21 And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

Ezra 3:11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

Psalm 106:1 Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 107:1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm  118:1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm  118:29 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 136:1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. (ESV)

A reminder that whether we are going through difficult circumstances or we are experiencing a time of abundance–the character of God’s does not change.

He is always good.
He is always loyal in His love toward us.

Therefore, we can trust His providence, provision, presence and precepts.

God does not change and His love is indeed steadfast, loyal, unchanging–I thank Him for His faithful.

The Fear of the Lord

What is the “fear of the Lord?”

The words that are used in both the Old Testament and New Testament are words that would be used to describe general fear, to be frightened, a terror, to feel great distress, deep concern of pain, to tremble, to show high value and honor to one in authority bordering on fear (adapted from Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains and A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Third Edition).

The concept of the “fear of the Lord” is often translated “awe” or “respect” and most people in the pew when asked, “What is the fear of the Lord” simply declare, “To respect or to honor God.”

But when asked, “What does it look like to respect or honor God” as described in the passages that command us to “fear the Lord” most are not sure.

It is interesting to read the passages that use either “fear the Lord” or “fear of the Lord” and other combinations. One thing you find is that the “fear of the Lord” is a positive command not a negative command. And it is not antithetical to “love for the Lord.” As a matter of fact “fear the Lord” and “love the Lord” occur together in a number of passages.

See all of Deuteronomy 6 (particularly Deuteronomy 6:1-3, 4-5, 13-18, 24-25):

Proverbs 16:6 By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil. (ESV)

Deuteronomy 10:12–13 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? (ESV)

The fear of the Lord often commanded in the context of a challenge to turn from evil:

Job 28:28 And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’ ” (ESV)

Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. (ESV)

Proverbs 14:26–27 In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge. 27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. (ESV)

Proverbs 16:6 By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil. (ESV)

See also Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; Joshua 4:24; 24:14-15

What is the fear of the Lord? And how does it related to the love for the Lord?

Love for the Lord causes us to run toward God
Fear of the Lord causes to run away from sin

My definition:
A recognition that God is God and I am not–therefore I must submit/surrender to His control and commands. Fleeing sin and pursuing His righteousness in full obedience lest I turn toward sin and defame the Lord.

To fear God is to have such a holy awe of God upon our hearts, that we dare not sin. —Thomas Watson

Living it Out

(This is a re-post since I’m working through the book of James again.)

I have often stated that teaching is information for transformation. But what is the opposite? What happens when we teach or when we learn but are not transformed?

In a conversation with George May (Pastor of Counseling and Family Ministries at Calvary Church), he used the following quote (I need to find the author):

Information without Application leads to Deception.

We are reminded in James 1 that God’s goal for us is not comfort or happiness but completeness and maturity (James 1:2-4).

So, when we face trials our primary response should not be “get me out” but “grow me through.” Our prayer should be, “Give me wisdom and grow my faith through the circumstances of life” (James 1:5-8).

The more God grows our faith, the more steadfast we will be under trials (James 1:12).

The challenge is to continue to trust God even when the trial seems endless or unbearable. We should not be deceived, God is the giver of all good gifts (James 1:16-18) and is not the One tempting us to sin (James 1:13). It is our own strong desires that when not surrendered to God lead to sin, lack of self-control and all sorts of evil (James 1:14-15, 19-20).

In contrast, the individual who in meekness received the implanted Word of God (James 1:21) is to be a doer of the Word, not just a hearer only which leads to self-deception.

Therefore, information without application (the “doing”) leads to deception.
Deception of ourselves–we are not who we think we are and therefore tend to be judgmental of others
Deception of others–we are not who they think we are, but are wearing a mask of information to impress

James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (ESV)

James 1:23-25 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (ESV)

Information without Application is Deception

What then honors God and gives evidence of a growing faith?–obedience. An obedience that is evident in how we speak and react (James 1:19-20) and how we reach out (James 1:26-27).

James 1:26-27 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (ESV)

Information without Application is Deception

So we must engage with God and His Word and extend to others as a means of growth and evidence of growth.

Spiritual Family Tree

I have traced our family tree back 10 or 11 generations in this country, including the first generation of Scotch-Irish immigrants who fought in the American Revolution. And the Kilgour Clan (original spelling) can be traced many generations back in Scotland before being transported to Ireland by King James I.

But for me one of the interesting things to trace is my spiritual family tree.  While it is true that including  me, 6 of the last 10 generations of Kilgores that I trace in my family line were ordained ministers and I am thankful for the fact that my grandfather and father have had a spiritual influence in my life–they helped me develop my love for the Word of God–I know that I cannot rest on my heritage.  It is not enough to look back at the generations that came before me.  I have always been challenged to own my own relationship with the Lord, not as a family right or family history but as a personal passion.  I know how easy it is for a rich heritage to be lost.

If each generation does not own their own relationship with the Lord, personally, the influence of the heritage can be lost within one generation.

It is common for the passion and conviction of one generation to become conviction without passion for the next generation.  And then that passionless conviction becomes simply ritual for the next generation.  And finally ritual becomes forgotten history.

So what am I doing to leave a spiritual family tree?

If your spiritual family tree has deep roots—what are you doing to keep it healthy and growing straight and bearing fruit?

  • Who has influenced me?  How did they do it?
  • What must I do to insure that I have conviction, passion and own my own relationship with the Lord?
  • Who am I influencing to develop a spiritual family tree?

Psalm 78:1–8 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! 2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, 3 things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. 5 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7 so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; 8 and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God. (ESV)