Authority: The Gospel or Man-made Religion

GALATIANS 1:11-24 – “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.  For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came †through the revelation of Jesus Christ…”

In this passage, Paul opens a broadside against the false teachers who came to the Galatians churches to claim their authority and dispute Paul’s authority.  They sought to dismiss the gospel Paul preached because they claimed it rested on his own authority.  They supported their claim by pointing to the Mosaic Law, specifically that of circumcision.  To them, that seemed reasonable, since their claim not only reached back into ancient history (for them), but it defined them as God’s people He delivered from the Egyptians and placed His mark on them as His chosen people.  How could Paul begin to argue against such insurmountable evidence?  To the Judaizers, it was an uphill battle for Paul to make any other claim.  How could anyone reject the established Mosaic Law that had more than 1,300 years of acceptance?  Additionally, how could anyone simply cast aside centuries of traditions the Jewish fathers taught in their interpretation of the Mosaic Law? Law and tradition were like hand and glove – inseparable.

However, since Paul received direct revelation from Jesus Himself, he staked his claim on that which was greater in significance – the promise of Messiah.  Promise had far greater value than the Mosaic Law, because promise stood as the grounds for faith whereas the Law catered to the flesh by inciting sin through the fleshly nature.  The promised Messiah came prior to Moses and saw His fulfillment apart from Law through grace (John 1:16-18).

Paul will take his readers through several arguments to explain the superiority of God’s promise over the Mosaic Law later in his letter by showing:

  1. that faith in God’s word holds greater importance in relating to Him than the Mosaic Law
  2. that faith and grace preceded the works of the law
  3. that the Law had no power in itself to bring forth righteousness
  4. that God never intended the Law to bring forth righteousness

Defense of the Gospel from Experience

  1. Not from men (1:11-12)
  2. Revelation of Jesus Christ (1:12)
  3. Refutation of human authority, including his own (1:13, 16-17)
  4. Refutation of traditions (1:14)
    • Affirmation of God’s grace 1:15)
    • Independence from men and apostolic authority (1:16-19; 2:9)
    • Affirmation from a changed life (1:21-24)

 

CHAPTER ONE WRAP-UP QUESTIONS

  • How does Paul explain the gospel?
  • Is the gospel just for unbelievers?
  • From what we have learned so far, how would you present the gospel to others? (See also Romans 10:9-10)
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Can Something be True without Being Factual?

The LA Times published an editorial April 13, 2017 about the Passover, In religion, something can be true without being factual.  The article poses a question, “Does it matter if the Passover story is literally true?”

In it, the author, Eric Schwitzgebel, argues that it does matter.  However, his position is that if it is true, then Judaism has a problem.  He confronts one negative with another.  He states the problem in the following way,

“It matters,” I said, “because if the story is literally true, then a god who works miracles really exists. It matters if there is such a god or not. I don’t think I would like the moral character of that god, who kills innocent Egyptians. I’m glad there is no such god.”

That is, he claims that making the story historically factual, gives Judaism a murderous god, something he does not want to believe.  Such a false dilemma.  Therefore, one must adapt a story or myth to present values to make it powerful for today.  In other words, he celebrates a truth of values, which are adaptable to present circumstances.  Consequently, the way to escape what one considers a negative from history is to establish one’s own truth based on ever changing values.  This argument is one similar to that which many today hold,

“What is true for you may not be true for me,”

or

“Your truth may not be the same as my truth.”

These statements result from divorcing truth from historical fact and creating one’s own “facts” or not having any facts at all upon which truth rests.  That is, truth is that of convenience to do away with what one dislikes.

Several people responded to this editorial, but one specifically caught my attention.  This responder picked up on the core issue when writing,

   “As a professor of philosophy he probably knows the difference between “facts” and “truth,” as well as how much the meaning of stories matters, regardless of their empirical factuality. His “alternative” interpretations of the Torah manifest precisely this difference, in their appeal to the “moral” character of God.    He is correct to say that the meanings of the stories contain their moral lessons. Therein also lies their truth value.     No matter one’s inclination for literal as opposed to figurative interpretation, the stories of the Torah aim at truth, as do all religious narratives. More than their factuality, the truth of these narratives is what both comforts and discomforts us. Interpreting these stories and communicating their truth is what holds in tension our contemporary values with the timelessness of truth.”

What this responder claims is that truth does not necessarily have to be based on facts to hold truth.  That is, truth and facts are not necessarily the same or something can be true without being factual.

Here is the rub.  If truth and facts can be different, then why should we believe this Schwitzgebel or the responder to him?  If truth and facts can be divorced from one another, what difference does it make?  None.  One simply states a baseless opinion among many opinions for one’s faith, which does not rise to any significance, especially if truth has no foundation in reality (facts of history).  Facts are stubborn things of reality.  That which is non-factual has no correspondence to reality.  To espouse “truth” without grounding in reality makes it fictitious and without any significance.  That which is not part of reality does not exist and has no knowledge base.  Our entire existence and way of life are based on truth having its grounding in the reality of facts.  Once we dismiss or ignore facts as the basis for truth, chaos ensues.  We cannot live with such a division.  Rather, one would necessarily take a leap of faith into the dark abyss of non-existence where knowledge does not exists.  Such a leap is an attempt to escape reality itself.

How do we know Schwitzgebel is not wrong if he makes a distinction between truth and facts?  How can Schwitzgebel judge something right or wrong, whether a historical event or present circumstance which becomes history, if truth has no grounding in fact?  If truth and facts are different, how are judges to make decisions in courts?  Those who swear to tell the truth can also ignore the facts of a case.  If truth and facts can be separate, why believe anyone who presents you with a contract?  If someone swears they will do something, and they believe in the division between truth and facts, why would you believe them?  Actions are also facts, and we cannot wish them away regardless how much we try.  It is this kind of reasoning that destroys truth altogether and makes lies the bedrock of society.

However, we know that the Exodus and Passover are true because they are factual events.  Christ is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7).  He fulfilled Passover by paying the price for our sins and then rising from the dead.

Have a Blessed Easter (Paschal).

The Letter to the Galatians Outline

When Paul wrote his letters to the churches, he frequently addressed problems they encountered.  The urgency of the problem depended on how swift he addressed it.  In the Galatians letter, Paul began with the problem immediately.  Not long after Christ’s death and resurrection, defection from the gospel began.  The influence of Judaism and the Mosaic Law remained strong among the recipients of the gospel.

The Church lived in two worlds: the world of Judaism and the world of Christ’s resurrection.  While mass conversions took place to Christ, the thought of leaving Judaism never entered the minds of the Jews.  They still had their synagogues, the Temple, sacrifices, ceremonies, and Torah.  The newness of the resurrection never led the Jews to believe that they must leave the Jewish religion and all that defined it.

Then came Paul.  He discovered or rediscovered the seeds of the gospel in God’s word to the Jews in the Old Testament through his encounter with the living Christ.  These seeds came to fruition through Christ.  Christ opened his eyes to the grace and peace (Galatians 1:3) from the unchanging covenant given from God of the Jews and the Gentiles.  As he received this revelation from Christ, he understood how the Mosaic Law never meant to be the means of redemption or what distinguished the people of God from others.  The Gentiles never had the benefits the Jews possessed (Romans 9:4).  Yet, God also called them to redemption.

Since Paul ministered the unqualified grace and peace of Christ to the Gentiles, a huge tension arose among the Jews concerning authority.  God gave Moses the Law.  Must then the Gentiles enter the Christian community of faith through the same authority – Moses?  There is precedent for this process – Gentile proselytes through circumcision.  If so, they must be circumcised and observe the tenets of the Mosaic Law to receive redemption.  Christ was not enough.  Grace was not enough.  One cannot just kick Moses to the curb just because Paul said so.  Who was he to usurp Mosaic authority?  What was Paul’s answer?  No, no, no!  No one could keep the Law.  Sinful flesh held sway over us and simply leads to defection.  Jewish history gave evidence of Israel continually leaving God.

What then?  Paul argues that God the Father and Jesus His Son gave the necessary grace and peace the Law could not provide.  This grace and peace came through the cross: Christ becoming sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).  With this message, Paul encountered the first heresy of this young Church – the renunciation of Christ’s complete satisfaction for sin.  What are the points of this heresy?  Christ and His sacrifice were not enough.  Grace was not enough.  Peace with God was not enough.  The Galatians needed to go through the Mosaic Law to get through Christ’s redemption.  Therefore, salvation was Christ plus, grace plus, the cross plus.  What was the plus?  Human effort!  The tension was between Christ and human effort.

OUTLINE

I.            The Problem: Gospel Defection, 1:6-12; 3:1-4

A.                  The tension with the gospel

B.                  What is legalism?

C.                  Rejecting Christ

D.                 Rejecting Christ’s sacrifice

E.                  Substitutes another gospel that is human centered

II.          Defense of the Gospel from Experience, 1:11-2:21

A.                  Direct Call from Jesus Christ

B.                  Conversion and Rejection of Judaism

C.                  Affirmation by the Apostles

D.                 Showdown with Peter

III.        Defense of the Gospel from the Scriptures and History (OT), 3:1-4:31

A.                  Faith centered as shown by Abraham, 3:1-9; Acts 13:36-40; Habakkuk 2:4

B.                  Opposed to the Mosaic Law, 3:10-12

C.                  Christ centered, 3:13-14

D.                 According to promise, 3:14-18

E.                  Purpose of the Mosaic Law explained, 3:19-4:7

F.                   Mosaic Law versus the promises of God, 4:8-31

IV.        Application and Return to the Message, 5-6

A.                  The liberty of faith and the slavery of the flesh, 5:1-15

B.                  Walking in the Holy Spirit versus walking in the flesh, 5:16-26

C.                  Love as bearing burdens of others, 6:1-5

D.                 Love as doing good, 6:6-10

E.                  Keep the cross central, 6:11-18

 

Nothing But the Gospel

Can We be Saved through Creation, Other Religions, or Human Philosophy?

Nothing But the Gospel: Can We be Saved through Creation, Other Religions, or Human Philosophy? by [Talbot, Floyd]

Today’s Christians live in a religiously pluralistic and diverse environment. Pluralism is a hot topic in our post-modern society. That is, we receive pressure to be all-inclusive and to embrace diversity. This pressure does not stop with culture or race. Religious pluralism is also included in this list. Such pluralism suggests that we should be accepting of other religions and their teachings as well as embracing more than one way to God and His salvation. Otherwise, we are labeled intolerant and narrow-minded. However, must we accept this mindset?

This book tackles these challenges.

A tug of war continues to exist over two positions within Christian circles:

1.Exclusivism – One who does not know God must encounter the proclaimed gospel to come to a saving knowledge of him.
2.Inclusivism – Those who have never heard the gospel can come to a saving knowledge of God without hearing the gospel. Rather, they can go to heaven by responding to the light from creation, other religions, human reason, or philosophy.

One of the major consequences of these two positions concerns the person and nature of God. This book engages in a lengthy discussion about how each position treats God and the difference such treatments of Him make.

It addresses such questions as “Is God fair? Can we trust Him? Is God in control of the future, specifically our destiny, or does He share control and power with His creation, specifically humanity?”

The environment of inclusivism has an increasingly negative influence on evangelical churches and whole denominations, leading many astray. It is of utmost importance for Christians to understand influences speculative philosophy and false teachings have on faith.

This book also affirms that only the gospel “is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Salvation requires the right power. The Scriptures declare that the source of that power is in the gospel, and it begins with the righteousness of the triune God. Getting the God of our faith right insures that we come to an accurate understanding of salvation. This book discusses these two essential attributes of God, His power and righteousness, for salvation.